Late author Donald Westlake’s famed anti-hero Parker has been the subject of two dozen novels and about a half dozen film adaptations, and while director Taylor Hackford and Jason Statham come closest to a faithful big screen outing for the world famous thief with a specific moral code, it’s a pretty dull roar that Parker arrives with overall.
Based on Westlake’s 2000 novel Flashfire (written under his pseudonym Richard Stark), Statham plays the titular character, a notorious badass and master thief brought in for a single job to rob the Ohio State Fair. When things go South and his unaware partners double cross him after his refusal to take on a second job with the crew, they nearly kill him and leave him for dead. Wanting revenge and what he’s owed, Parker follows the crew to Florida to make sure their next job doesn’t go so smoothly.
Statham gets to show off the acting muscles he rarely gets a chance to use outside of more thoughtful work along the lines of The Bank Job, and he holds his own here. There’s no denying that the casting feels correct, but ultimately Hackford (who has fallen pretty far since his first success with An Officer and a Gentleman almost 30 years ago) and his crew can’t decide if they want to make a bone-crunching action film or a cerebral crime drama.
The script comes riddled with clichés and stock tough-guy dialogue that’s refreshingly devoid of irony and cynicism, but also never adds anything new or exciting. The supporting cast of villains – including the usually reliable Michael Chiklis and Wendell Pierce – aren’t given anything to do except act as bodies for Parker to exact his revenge on. These kinds of films rise and fall on the strength of their villains, but it’s a huge hole in here.
Also bringing nothing to the table is Jennifer Lopez as a real estate agent helping Parker with his plans. It’s a role that should be a lot smaller and when her character literally stops the movie to give a speech, it’s an eye-rolling experience.
With diminished expectations from action fans who know they won’t see a lot of slam-bang theatrics, Parker could be somewhat enjoyable on a lazy afternoon, but on the big screen it feels too much like a missed opportunity yet again; no different from any other film featuring this character.
Cast: Jason Statham, Jennifer Lopez
Directed by: Taylor Hackford
Top image: A scene from Parker. Courtesy eOne Films.